How hard is it to beat the same opponent four times in one season?
It’s a fingernail-biting endeavor.
And for the second-ranked Cleveland High Eagles to defeat Metro League rival Seattle Prep for a final time, they needed overtime Saturday – but pulled out a tension-filled 45-43 victory to win the Class 3A state girls basketball championship in the Tacoma Dome.
Alexia Mefi scored 15 points for the Eagles, but the win came on two key exchanges in overtime – one on Asiyah Davis’ game-winning put-back in the lane with 18 seconds to go, and Joyce Harrell’s block of Michaela Carew’s layup for the Panthers with three seconds remaining.
Up 45-43, all Cleveland had to do was inbound the ball after a jump-ball call after Harrell’s defensive stop. The Eagles turned the ball over, giving No. 6 Seattle Prep one final possession with less than a second remaining.
But on that inbounds play, Carew did not see teammate Andraya Flor leave her spot in the corner, and air-mailed a pass out of bounds.
The Eagles sent their next inbounds pass long where Seattle Prep retrieved it, but could not get off a buzzer-beating shot near midcourt.
“I am proud of them,” Cleveland coach Stephanie Wheeler-Smith said. “They’ve got a lot of heart, got a lot of faith and fight.”
Cleveland’s pressure disrupted the Panthers early, leading to a 29-14 halftime lead.
But something woke up Seattle Prep in the second half. The Panthers scored on their first 10 possessions and nearly erased all of the deficit by the end of the third quarter, trailing 33-32.
Seattle Prep (23-6) took its first lead, 36-34, on Carew’s two free throws with 5:12 remaining.
“I don’t think they were expecting us to come out that strong in the second half,” Carew said. “We have five seniors on our team. We wanted to win a state championship. I am so proud of how we played.”
It was the Eagles who looked dead, having had two scoring droughts of at least five minutes in each quarter of the second half. But Ladd saved the day at the end of regulation, hitting an 8-footer to send the game into overtime, tied at 38.
The score was tied twice in the extra session — the last time at 43-43 — when Cleveland (27-2) had three shots at the basket. Makala Roper missed a corner 3-pointer, and Harrell’s put-back attempt clanked off – but the basketball went right to Davis, who feathered her shot. It hit the rim but dropped through for a bucket and the winning margin.
“I was determined to make that shot,” Davis said.